A pound of butter

I spent the weekend in Maine with my dear friend (and future travel partner) Mariel, whose boyfriend lives in Portland (Hi Sam!). I love Maine: it’s freezing right now, which was a shock coming straight from NC, but it’s so beautiful, everyone is kind, and it’s one of the few places where you can hike in the mountains and hear the ocean at the same time.

On Saturday we went for a hike around Morse Mountain, where we walked on the beach and leaned against the wind and watched the surf break. It was the perfect Maine day. We had plans to cook dinner and make apple pie that night, so on our way home we stopped at an adorable local farmstand. As I collected pound after pound of apples, I eyed the refrigerators containing local greens, eggs, and dairy products. I spotted some local, organic butter and had a thought. We most likely wouldn’t be getting to the store for Earth Balance. And the thought of adding fake (vegan) butter to this totally wholesome, local Maine meal didn’t feel right to me. So I suggested we buy some butter for our pie. We did, and the pie was great. I pouted for 30 seconds about the fact that it was too crumbly (I didn’t add enough water), but then five of us proceeded to eat the whole pie, so……I’d say it was a success.


our pie may or may not have looked like this. (source)

Here’s the thing. I’ll still be baking with Earth Balance and coconut oil over the holidays. I still don’t want eggs for breakfast. I’ll still be ordering my side salads without goat cheese for the time being. I didn’t eat any ice cream with my pie. But, as I explained to Mariel, I had to take ownership of my own decisions. Yes, butter is not great for you in significant quantities. But this was a special occasion, and based off of my assumptions regarding where this butter came from and how the animals who produced it were treated (and yes, these are just assumptions), I had no ethical qualms about eating it. And I think it is so important to examine and evaluate and sometimes test our own beliefs. I’m not a vegan because Person X and Person Y and Blogger Z are vegans. I’m not a vegan because it’s trendy, or because I want to lead an alternative lifestyle. Im not a vegan because I told somebody that I was, and now there’s no turning back. I eat a plant-based diet because I think it’s the best choice I can make for my own health (give or take a few vegan cupcakes), it allows me to contribute to minimal animal cruelty, and it’s the best choice I can make for the environment — especially when I eat locally grown and produced foods. And I’ve never felt more confident and in touch with that decision. Honestly, if someone else had suggested the butter purchase, I would have likely said no. Though it’s probably attributed to my weird aversion to feeling like others are telling me what to do, it’s also because I had to make the decision for myself. I had to break free of my own self-definitions and prove to myself why I’ve chosen this “lifestyle”. I had to ask myself why I make the decisions that I do, and I needed a good answer.

The pie was good, but the butter tasted a bit…..foreign to me. I hadn’t (knowingly) had any in months. And while the pie was delicious (can you beat a homemade pie like that? No, you cannot), it didn’t make me want to go buy another pound of butter. I may try to introduce a bit if dairy into my diet in the coming weeks because I will most likely consume it occasionally on our trip (for multiple reasons I might further discuss in another post). But honestly, I don’t exactly feel like it. I think I have lost a taste for most dairy products and I don’t want to have to worry about where my dairy is coming from (although I fully support ethical and sustainable dairies). At the end of the day, I’m still happy with where I am. And this confidence in my own decisions is much more meaningful than being able to recite the number of days it has been since an animal product touched my lips.

I’m not sharing this to get a pat on the back. Or a pat of butter. I just think it’s so healthy for us to understand why we make the choices we do. What we believe and what we put into our bodies matters. Whether or not you like thinking about it, where your food comes from matters. And understanding and choosing your own beliefs and opinions empowers you.

So, after all that heavy butter talk, I will leave you a description of the soup we made. It is by no means a recipe, but it is by all means delicious and seasonal. It was a team effort, and it turned out perfectly:

1. Heat oil in a pan and add a large chopped onion. Sauté until soft; add a few cloves of minced garlic. Sauté some more.

2. Add dried thyme (farmstand fresh is best!) generously. Add the flesh from two roasted squash (we used butternut and red kuri). Stir. Smell what you’ve got cooking. Smile.

3. Cook until you feel like adding water. Add as much water as you want. Throw in some salt, pepper and nutmeg for good measure. Simmer while making new friends. Simmer while making a pie crust and watching YouTube videos. Simmer while piling on sweaters on a chilly Maine night.

4. Before serving, rebelliously add a pat of butter (omit for vegan option duh). Purée it if you’d like, but I’m glad we didn’t (thanks Sam!). Serve to a room of hungry boys, but make sure to get some yourself. And remember: The more thyme you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

Enjoy!

DIY: Hold onto your nuts.

Have you ever roasted your own nuts? Do you like your nuts roasted? What is your favorite method of nut consumption?

Okay, I’ll stop. But I roasted up some nuts last night as a snack to bring to Conferenceroomageddon: Day 2, and it was so easy and delicious that I wanted to share. Normally I buy my nuts raw and unsalted from Trader Joes (they are so cheap!), so I already had everything I needed. The difference in flavor between what came out of my oven and what comes out of a bowl at your favorite dive bar was shocking (or not. And really, you have no idea where those nuts have been. They have no business in your mouth).

20111116-075749.jpg

Do you have raw nuts? Do you have salt?* Do you have a baking sheet?

Good. Then do this:

1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees
2. Place your nuts on the baking sheet. I used cashews, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
3. Sprinkle them generously with sea salt
4. Place your nuts in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring a few times and making sure they don’t burn.

Let cool and store in an airtight container. If you’re feeling generous, you can share your nuts with others. But after roasting your own, you might want to consider celibacy.

*Don’t have salt? Go buy some! Who are you?!

Holy Mole Popcorn

(pronounced holy mole-ay, por supuesto)

I sat in a conference room for twelve straight hours today. It was, let’s say, the opposite of fun. And while I thought I would be prepared by eating a hearty breakfast at home and bringing a nutritious granola bar to supplement the lunch that would be provided, it turned out that a) we had to stay for dinner as well and b) therefore all I ate between the hours of 9 AM and 9 PM was bread, salad, more bread, more salad…..and a granola bar. So my preparation was a bit lacking. You would think that this would inspire me to go home and cook a meal full of vegetables and protein. But instead…..I had beer and popcorn. And it was amazing.

But not just any popcorn. I recently realized that making popcorn at home is SO. FUN. It’s also terribly easy and cheap. I generally top it with melted Earth Balance and tons of Nutritional Yeast. But that wasn’t enough after the day I’d had. No, I needed dessert popcorn. Definitely some chocolate, a dash of spice, a hint of peanut butter, and something salty and crunchy to top it all off. This is, officially, my new favorite snack.

I have a confession, though. There’s one non-vegan thing over the past few months that I have (knowingly) fed myself. And that thing is peanut butter chips (sorry Dad, poor subject-verb agreement there). But whatever. They’re awesome. And this is what I did with them tonight:

Holy Mole Popcorn

2 C plain popcorn (from 1.5 T kernels – basic instructions here)
1 T Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1-2 T Chocolate Chips
1-2 T Peanut Butter Chips*
1/4 t cinnamon
dash cayenne pepper
roasted peanuts and crushed pretzels, for garnish

*you could probably make this a bit healthier (and vegan-er) by subbing 1T of peanut butter

1. Combine Earth Balance, Chocolate Chips, and Peanut Butter Chips (or peanut butter) in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 1 min, stirring once or twice.

2. Add spices and stir into chocolate mixture.

3. Pour chocolate mixture over your popcorn and top with roasted peanuts and pretzels (the pretzels are KEY). The mixture clearly combines best if you toss it with the popcorn, but I can’t be held responsible for how nasty this will make your hands look.

4. Enjoy with an ice cold beer, this book, and the satisfaction of not being in a freezing cold conference room.

Recent Favorite: Semi-Homemade with Marian B.

I’m not just a food snob — I’m a cooking snob. I make my own almond milk; I soak and cook my beans; I turn my nose up at instant oatmeal. I love making things from scratch, and I adore the process of baking. So I’m a little embarrassed to admit how in love I am with this pumpkin bread I made from a box.

As I’ve said before, I’m trying to clean out my pantry over the next few weeks. This box has been in my possession for well over a year, so I figured it was time to do something with it. And since the ingredients were all vegan (hooray!), I just had to throw in two ingredients and cross my fingers.

What I did
The box called for water, oil, and an egg. I used canola oil and my go-to egg replacer:
1T ground flaxmeal + 3 T warm water + 5 minutes = congealed amazingness.
…The rest was quite easy:
Step 1: Cut open plastic bag and dump mix into bowl, trying not to get the powdery goodness all over your countertop, slippers, and laptop. Heaven forbid anything keep me from my Pandora showtunes station.
Step 2: Mix with a wooden spoon, mixing just until combined and trying not to consume 1/8 of the batter before it hits the oven.
Step 3: Grease your loaf pan with Earth Balance (vegan butter). I like to turn a ziplock baggie inside out, grab a pinch of buttery goodness, and smear it in the pan. This makes cleaning up quick and easy!
Step 4: (under-)Bake in 350 degree oven for 50-52 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes. Swoon as your house smells like pumpkin and rainbows. Realize you only have to wash one bowl, a spoon, and a measuring cup. Smile.
Step 5: Share the love. Maybe bring half the loaf to the bar. Try not to knock over your coworker’s beer when you yell “it’s vegan!!!” accompanied by sweeping hand gestures.

Seriously, this is the most moist, delicious pumpkin bread I’ve ever had. It’s so good I’m actually glad I ignored my impulse to throw in a sprinkle of chocolate chips. And if you use an egg subsititute, you can sleep easy knowing you’re not contributing to the cruel abuse and confinement of chickens (yes, I went there). I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast every morning this week (topped with some PB for protein), and while it’s not as hearty or nutritious as my usual oatmeal, it’s a damn good way to start the morning. It’s November, and I’ll eat pumpkin until I turn orange.


(image via Sweet Tater)

what made me smile this week

…because I’d like to increase the amount of good in the universe, and I know no simpler way than to randomly send people uplifting and entertaining websites:

1. This news story regarding a boy with Autism who proved indispensable to his school’s basketball team. This may be the first youtube video to ever make me cry:

2. The entire Hello Giggles website. This is the most badass, hilarious girly website in the universe. And, really, who doesn’t need another reason to have a crush on cofounder Zooey Deschanel?

3. This…

…and this:
source: Lilie Zen Coach

4. Beyonce’s ENTIRE CD.

I’ve never been one to be celebrity-obsessed. But first Ryan Gosling, and now this? I know. I think it’s weird when people idolize celebrities. But Beyonce seriously MAKES MY LIFE BETTER. Track 11, “I Was Here”, basically makes me cry on a daily basis and encompasses everything I feel about life right now. If you haven’t watched the videos for her newest singles, let me please direct you here and here (SO. MANY. KEY CHANGES.) and ESPECIALLY here (because we do, in fact, run the world). And if you have 20 minutes to spare and you want to completely freak out about how awesome B is, please watch this.*

*can we talk about this? She FLEW IN A DANCE TROUPE FROM AFRICA to choreograph her video. They had no idea who she was. And then they made her CRY. And they made the most amazing music video EVER.

5. My farmer’s market goodies…all of this for $13! Eating organic CAN be inexpensive and easy–just check your local farmer’s market.

6. The following quote from J.K. Rowling:
‘“Fat” is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her

I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me; but then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I’m not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain…

I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’

‘Well,’ I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’

What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons.” (source)

Happy weekend, everybody. Go off and be a Hermione.

Movie Review: The Way

GO SEE THIS MOVIE NOW.


(isn’t that movie poster breathtaking?)

Do you like Spain? Go see this movie!

Do you like Martin Sheen? Go see this movie!

Do you like moving stories about a father’s love for his son? Go see this movie!

Do you like to smile and laugh and also sometimes cry but then fist pump a couple minutes later, by yourself, in a dark movie theater? Go see this movie! Companionship is overrated optional.

“The Way” is a film about a father’s reaction to his son’s tragic death on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage leading to the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela, where Saint James’s remains are said to be buried. Martin Sheen plays the father, Tom, and his real-life son Emilio Estevez produced and directed the movie, as well as played Tom’s dead son. When Tom, a curmudgeonly opthamologist (best combination of words ever), learns of his son’s sudden death, he travels to Spain to recover his remains. But when he understands his son’s journey and learns more about the Camino, he decides to finish what his son started and walk the nearly 500 miles from St. Jean Pied du Port to Santiago de Compostela. Along the way, of course, he meets a motley crew of Peregrinos and, through their companionship, learns to live his dead son’s philosophy:

“You don’t choose a life, dad. You live it.”

There are so many incredible moments in this movie – moments of heartbreak, compassion, of unexpected friendships and rage and cultural misunderstandings. The soundtrack is perfect. And I have never seen a movie, photo, or any other media portray the Spanish countryside in such an awe-inspiring way. It is, from every angle, a beautiful film.

I’ve got to admit, though, that the primary emotion I felt walking out of our little indie movie theater on Sunday night was excitement. Because next May, my Dad and I are walking the camino together. It’s going to be so amazing, I can’t stand it. Go read his review of the movie here. And then go see it yourself.

Full Disclosure: I also went and saw Footloose this week. And I have to admit that I enjoyed it. It is shameless, terribly acted, superficial fun. Who says you can’t enjoy both?

dear pavement:

Dear Pavement on the side of Queens Road West in Charlotte, North Carolina:

Thank you for being dug up that day last August when I set out on an early morning run. Thank you for being poorly lit by the lack of streetlights on your road. Thank you for making it nearly impossible for me, especially without my contacts in, to see that you were dug up until I was less than a foot away from you. Thank you for forcing me to dodge the tiny little rope strung around you, held up by wooden posts, like a little tent with no top.

Because if I hadn’t leapt so hastily to avoid you, dear Pavement, I would never have completely busted ass and sprained my ankle in a terrible, terrible way. I wouldn’t have laid on the grass, in the dark, crying, or hobbled home for two dreadful miles with tears in my eyes. I wouldn’t have worn a brace for months, or struggled with compensation injuries for the better part of a year.

If it weren’t for you, Pavement, I wouldn’t have learned that sometimes, shit just happens to us. Sometimes we want to be able to run marathons and we can’t. Sometimes “why me?” is the most irrelevant thing to scream ask.

If it werent for you, Pavement, I never would have begun attending morning yoga classes as a replacement for my daily runs. I would not have discovered my practice that fall, in the hot, dark room at Charlotte yoga, and found something that would make me proud of what my body could do, rather than frustrated by its weakness. I never would have become a yogi.

Were it not for you, oh little square of Pavement, I would never have enrolled in teacher training. I would never have met that special group of people that taught me how to love myself, taught me how to be strong, taught me that I was enough. I never would have felt so loved by a community of people in Charlotte. I may never have learned to meditate, or understood my own personal power. I never would have been able to show myself that I can be a teacher.


Source: Dawn Maser

Were it not for you, Pavement friend, I would not have been brave enough to go it on my own. I would not have gained the personal strength I needed to end a relationship. I would not have realized that I needed to break away from the complacent life I was living. I may never have considered leaving my job.

Without you, Pavement, I wouldn’t have learned that everything happens for a reason. That once I believed in myself, once I was free, I could take the leap and commit to leaving it all behind and embarking on my life’s greatest adventure. I never would have booked a one-way ticket to India. I never would have filled a prescription for Malaria pills. I never would have run off to Asia with my best friend.


Source: Mariel Nunes

So thank you, torn-up piece of pavement that I’ve cursed so many times before. I know that God stuck you in my path for a reason. You taught me humility, and realism, and you set into motion the path of the rest of my life. I’ll never forget you.